Takeaways from ‘The Big Conversation’ Fringe Event

At last week’s ‘The Big Conversation about Families, Parents and the Workplace’ breakfast fringe event which took place as part of the CIPD Annual Conference, we had some really great conversations (funny that!). The conversation focused on the themes identified in our launch event back in September.  Gem Dale has already reported on the discussions around the topic of ‘Flexible Flexible Working for All’.   Here are some of the things we discussed around the other three themes.

In the groups exploring ‘Creating the culture we need’ and ‘Changing attitudes & challenging stigma’, we identified the following elements of the ideal situation: an open trusting workplace; comfortable and open communication; and enabling and supporting flexible working.

The barriers we identified to achieving this included:



Managers lacking trust in their teams;

Legislation vs culture;

The barrier of management skills; and

Needing to deserve flexibility.


Here are our ideas to drive change:

Universal flexibility;

Changing mindsets to be positive about flexible working;

Supporting colleagues with who need flexibility;

Sharing success stories;

See flexibility as a retention tool;

Being able to request flexibility at interview.


It is interesting how much of these conversations focused in on making ‘flexibility for all’ acceptable as a key change that would trigger substantial change in the workplace for the whole area of enabling people to integrate family and work-life

The fourth theme we explored was ‘Supporting Line Managers to Manage Effectively’.  This theme has been chosen in the launch event, out a recognition of the key role that line managers have in making the workplace a positive experience for anyone with childcare or other caring responsibilities eg for partner, parents or other dependents.  Of course, effective line managers are key to the workplace being a positive experience full stop.  Here’s what we came up with –

Ideal situation:

Line managers that show trust towards their team members;

Line managers that are empowered to make decisions and take action;

Policies that empower and are flexible rather than are rigid; and

Managers that can free up HR time to focus on ‘bigger stuff’.


We identified the following barriers:

Do the individuals who are managers want to manage people?;

Do our people managers have the skills & knowledge to be confident people managers?;

Is there a consistent approach to managing people?

Lack of trust – what are my team members up to – particularly if out of sight?; and

Lack of confidence & inexperience.


We identified the following things as working well:

The importance of getting to know your people – eg appraise managers like Timpsons;

Empower managers;

Make use of performance support tools to aid managers in the moment;

See process as an enabler, not a blocker.


Here are the things we identified we could do to drive change:

Consider splitting roles between people management and technical management;

Be clear in the recruitment process on the expectations;

Upskill managers;

Have open & honest conversations;

Provide opportunities for managers to share experiences and learn from each other.

So, there are two key areas that have come out of ‘The Big Conversation’ overall, the opportunities provided by flexibility for all and the need for confident, effective line managers to make it a reality.

It is very heartening to know that CIPD is planning to run a campaign around the value of flexible working in 2018, as it is quite clear from our conversations how important an issue this is.   We look forward to hearing more about the campaign and how each one of us can get involved in making a difference to the making flexible flexible working for all a reality in all our workplaces!

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